Expert View

Good riddance to John Bolton

by David Hannay | 11.09.2019

Sighs of relief could be heard around the world at Donald Trump’s sacking of his National Security Adviser, John Bolton. And justifiably so. In this present volatile international situation a senior policymaker who, in the President’s own words, has never seen a war he does not like, who was set on dismantling the rules-based international order and who regarded the EU as one of the US’s main adversaries and wanted Britain out of it, is someone we could all get along better without.

Bolton’s super-hawkish approach to Iran was helping to drive a failing policy, whose consequence was more likely to be for Iran to resume its quest for a nuclear weapons capability rather than to stick with the main constraints in the nuclear deal from which the US has reneged; and to lead to either a nuclear arms race or another war in one of the world’s most unstable and strategically important regions. After all, this is a man who has publicly advocated “bomb Iran”. And this policy is driving a wedge between the US and its main allies, as well as its partners on the UN Security Council.

The US’s will to dismantle most of the main components of a rules-based international order, the agreements painfully hammered out over the last 70 years and the multilateral institutions set up by common accord to implement them, has sharply intensified on Bolton’s watch. His hostility to the UN has been legendary since his brief period as the US’s UN Ambassador when he did his best to scupper Kofi Annan’s much-needed reform programme. His Hobbesian approach to international relations was all too likely to promote the law of the jungle which wrought so much destruction worldwide in the first half of the 20th Century.

And his attitude towards the EU and Britain’s place in it was little short of aberrant, reversing many decades of US policy of encouraging European cooperation and integration. Try reading his rather oddly titled memoir “Surrender is not an option “ – oddly titled since he successfully avoided being drafted to fight in Vietnam – and you will find that in his world view the EU is close to being the US’s No 1 enemy. And he was here in the UK in the 1990s addressing a meeting of the Bruges Group in an onslaught on the EU and on Britain’s membership of it – a Faragist before Nigel Farage had even appeared on the political scene.

Of course, it is Trump and not Bolton who took, and still take, the decisions on US foreign policy. So we should not exaggerate the significance of his dismissal. But Bolton’s influence on almost every aspect of US foreign policy was inimical to Britain’s own national interests, whether within or outside the EU. So, in the words of Margaret Thatcher in a rather different context, we can surely afford to say: “Rejoice, rejoice”.

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Edited by Rachel Franklin

One Response to “Good riddance to John Bolton”

  • Excellent article with which I wholeheartedly agree. It was always a very bad appointment by Trump.

    My only regret is the reduced scope for Mr Pastry jokes…..